10 Genealogy Goals for 2015 – an update

Back on 1 January this year I set out 10 Genealogy Goals for 2015, a family historian’s ‘New Year’s Resolutions’. “What could possibly go wrong?” I asked (being all too aware of the reasons why I usually refrain from making grand plans). In the event, for the most part things did not go horribly wrong, and I am claiming a success rate of 9 out of 10 goals achieved. As for the tenth, unachieved goal, well that was (as you will see) overtaken by events.

Setting goals for 2015 did help to focus my energies on the things I wanted to achieve during the year. I updated my original Genealogy Goals article with progress reports as I went along, which helped to remind me what I had completed and what remained to be done. Now I have returned that article to its original state, by stripping out the updates and pulling them together here, in this final overview of the year’s achievements. In looking back at what has been accomplished in 2015, I will also look at what work lies ahead in 2016.

1. Write at least 30 new articles for this website

Goal achieved. I added the 30th new article of 2015 to this website on 10 July 2015 – that total was exclusive of the Genealogy Goals article with which I opened the year. I didn’t stop there of course, and went on to add a further 10 articles including the amazing story of John Atcherley Taylor (A fraudster Down Under), which was told in seven parts!

As a result of my endeavours, there are now over 100 articles on the Atcherley family history website. I still feel that I have only scratched the surface however – there is so much more to tell, about many of the Atcherleys who have already featured in my stories, and about many others who have yet to take their turn in the spotlight. There is more work to do, in 2016 and beyond.

2. Complete the update of this website’s family tree pages

Goal achieved. Starting on 2 January and ending on 11 February, I updated the eight family tree pages (out of a total of 12) which I had neglected in 2014. Some minor, additional tweaks followed in the ensuing months – along with a major change to the Richard of Stanwardine page in June 2015 as a result of Revising the roots of the family tree. School registers, and the 1939 Register, have recently provided me with dates of birth for quite a few Atcherley family members, so another round of updates now beckons!

In connection with this goal, I also stated that I would “look into the possibility of getting some of [my] additional genealogical information [on the female line descendants of the Atcherleys, and allied families] added to this site through static or dynamic family tree pages”, but I made no promises! On 5 September however I launched a new Atcherley Family Tree section to the website, providing the opportunity to start adding some of the additional information referred to above.

3. Make at least two visits to The National Archives to view documents held there relating to the Atcherley family

Goal achieved. I made the first of my TNA visits of 2015 on 6 June, when I photographed documents from the mid-1900s relating to Richard and David Atcherley (see Richard Atcherley in pre-WW2 Germany – Part 1 and Part 2, plus The disappearance of David Atcherley), along with others from around 1700 which resulted resulted in Thomas and Jane Atcherley: Evidence of matrimony in a case at Chancery. I also photographed some of the wildlife in the grounds, including the family of swans below! My second trip was on 12 December, when I focussed exclusively on extracting data from the 1939 Register, digitised by Findmypast, which can be viewed for free at TNA (see Census etc. 1930s). I didn’t look at all the 1939 Register pages I wanted to during my visit, and there are more documents at TNA that I would like to see, so further visits in 2016 are on the cards.

4. Approach the College of Arms regarding Atcherley information held

Goal achieved. On 26 July 2015 I finally sent an enquiry to the College of Arms via their website. I did not receive a response and so sent a further enquiry. The reply to this was in the form of a letter inviting me to telephone one of the Heralds during one of nine specified weeks ranging from the week beginning 2 November 2015 to the week beginning 28 November 2016! I made that call on 21 December, to have the following news broken to me: the Atcherley family provided the College of Arms with very little information, which means that the College of Arms in turn has nothing to add to my existing research. A disappointing outcome, but at least now I know what the score is.

5. Re-join the Shropshire Family History Society

Goal achieved! I re-joined the Shropshire Family History Society while attending “WDYTYA Live” on 16 Apr 2015. Maybe in 2016 I will contribute to the society’s journal?

6. Join the Society of Genealogists

Goal achieved! I joined the Society of Genealogists on 1 February 2015. The £10 joining fee was waived thanks to a promotional code from my Findmypast First membership. In 2016 I really ought to make more of my membership, by visiting the SoG library in London.

7. Attend “WDYTYA Live” in Birmingham

Goal achieved. I attended all three days of “Who Do You Think You Are? Live” from 16 to 18 Apr 2015. My report Who Do You Think You Are? Live, 2015 (Part 1) covers only a fraction of what I saw while there. It’s a bit late in the day to be adding Part 2 now, but who knows, maybe I will pull something together anyway. Hopefully before “WDYTYA Live” 2016, which will also be held at Birmingham’s NEC, and which I also hope to attend (along with the Guild of One Name Studies’ annual conference perhaps?).

8. Contribute to a transcription project

Goal achieved. I started transcribing at BillionGraves.com on 7 March 2015 and on 6 Apr 2015 I transcribed my 1,000th name. I also started my own ‘transcription project’ by adding content to my Waters Upton One Place Study website. So far I have added abstracts from parish registers, wills, admons and probate calendars, plus marriage licenses, and transcripts of newspaper reports relating to the parish. In this way I have made many hundreds of records freely available to other genealogists online.

9. Support campaigns against further cuts to archive, library, museum and heritage services

Goal achieved. On 7 Jan 2015 I signed an online petition at Change.org calling on George Osborne to reverse current and future cuts to the Imperial War Museum’s annual operating grant. I also made a donation to help promote the petition further and continued to support the campaign via social media. The cuts at IWM meant that its superb library containing documents such as Sir Harold Atcherley’s diary (kept when when he was a Far East Prisoner of War) was to be closed and its collection dispersed. Those plans were dropped but the library’s opening hours and staff have been reduced. Plans for charging users were also introduced, but were dropped following further campaigning (see the Love Imperial War Museum Library blog for further details).

I also signed another petition at Change.org, calling for the reversal of cuts to the Library of Birmingham, which includes Birmingham’s archive services (The Iron Room, a brilliant genealogy and family history resource). Sadly, the library’s large operating costs combined with Government cuts to local authority grants left Birmingham City Council with little room for manoeuvre. Massive cuts have been made, leading to greatly reduced opening hours for the library and the archives within, plus the loss of many skilled library and archive staff. The campaign to reverse those cuts continues, led by Friends of the Library of Birmingham.

Through social media I have also supported the wider campaign to save libraries across the UK from cuts and closures, and other more specific campaigns such as the one to Save North Devon Record Office and Local Studies Centre (which has secured a stay of execution with funding provided until April 2016).

The Government will no doubt continue it’s campaign to cripple public services in 2016 and beyond, which means that those of us who believe in the importance of preserving our heritage (and access to it) have lots more to do in the years ahead.

10. Campaign for the digitisation of historic English and Welsh birth, marriage and death registers

This is the goal which was ‘overtaken by events’. On 6 Feb 2015 the Society of Genealogists confirmed that the Government had accepted an amendment to the Deregulation Bill, which later completed its passage through Parliament and received Royal Assent. It became the Deregulation Act 2015 – the provisions on BMD records, at legislation.gov.uk, start here.

Although I had not needed to write to my MP on this matter at the beginning of 2015, as the months went by following the Deregulation Act I began to wonder if I should write to ask why nothing further had been done. But this month (December 2015) the GRO finally started to hold consultation meetings with representatives from the genealogy community. In time (probably measured in years rather than months I fear) we will hopefully see regulations tabled and agreed in Parliament which will at last provide better access to historic English and Welsh BMD records.

Perhaps I should have replaced this goal with another. In retrospect, maybe I did! Getting an Atcherley DNA project off the ground is something I had in mind for some time before 2015. This year, at long last, I finally managed to achieve this long standing goal – see the DNA page on this website. Having launched the project, in 2016 I will need to do more to promote it and recruit more participants.

Picture credits. Swans on the lake at The National Archives, Kew: photo by the author.